Physical Ability Measures Predict Death Risk in Elderly

Poor grip strength, walking speed, chair rising, and standing balance predict higher mortality risk
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Community-dwelling elderly people with poor performance on objective measures of physical capability are at higher risk of death than those who perform better, according to a meta-analysis published online Sept. 9 in BMJ.

Rachel Cooper, Ph.D., of the University College London, and colleagues screened the medical literature and identified studies that examined the associations of four objective measures of physical capability (grip strength, walking speed, chair rising, and standing balance times) and mortality. The researchers pooled the data and assessed mortality risks for each of the four measures.

Generally, the meta-analysis confirmed that mortality risk increased for those who performed less well on any or all of the four physical capability measures. Comparing the lowest performance quartile to the highest, mortality risks were as follows: for grip strength, hazard ratio (HR), 1.67 (P from Q statistic < 0.001); for walking speed, HR, 2.87 (P = 0.25); and for chair rising, HR, 1.96 (P < 0.01). The data on standing balance were too heterogeneous for the authors to perform a meta-analysis. The authors note that studies on the associations of standing balance, chair rising, and walking speed with mortality have been done only in populations with an average age over 70, but that the link between grip strength and mortality was found in younger populations as well.

"Objective measures of physical capability are predictors of all-cause mortality in older community-dwelling populations. Such measures may therefore provide useful tools for identifying older people at higher risk of death," the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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